Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “meditation”

Mad, but not at me or my integrity

Years and years ago, before I got my eating under control, I used to occasionally do “The Artist’s Way” which is a creativity workbook. I did not know it at the time but it is based on the 12 steps. And part of doing the “program” (for lack of a better term) is to write 3 pages of handwritten stream of consciousness every morning. The woman who created it called them “morning pages.” And they are based on the practice of prayer and meditation that is a big part of the 12 steps.

So when I was still eating compulsively, I was doing this workbook. And I hated morning pages. They made me frustrated and angry. And there were whole days in a row that I would literally just write “I don’t want to do this” over and over for 3 pages. 

I certainly didn’t understand it at the time, but I was angry because there were so many things on my conscience that I had shoved down so I didn’t have to look at them. And the writing was trying to bring them to the surface. To be healed. To be dealt with. To be put to rest. 

But putting them to rest meant I would have to acknowledge them. And my part in them. And the ways that I was behaving that left me ashamed. And while I was still in the food, I was never going to be able to deal with my shame.

For the last several years I have been struggling to pray and meditate. I have been angry at life. I have been so afraid for so long that it just sort of lives inside me now. My constant low level anxiety ramping up into a constant mid level anxiety. And the basis of my belief system, that Life is always right and always giving me exactly what I need, suddenly seemed untrue. Not just untrue. Like bullshit.

So I stopped praying and meditating. But that wasn’t really working for me either. I did try to get back to the happy, daily meditation I had been doing for years. And it never worked. That old routine was broken for me now and it was not going to get fixed.

But I did still want to get back into some sort of meditation practice. So I went back to “morning pages.” And it has been a great opportunity for me to clear my head. And get a good look at the things that are not clear while they are rattling around in my brain. 

But here is what I have noticed. There is no anger. There is no frustration. The past 17 years of having my eating under control, and looking at my life, and making amends for my mistakes, and owning the harm I have done, means that there is nothing in my head or heart that I can’t look at. There is nothing shoved down so I don’t have to deal with it. And if there is something that makes me uncomfortable or gives me that sense of dread, I know to look directly at it. To put it down on the page. To put the idea into words and deal with the reality of the situation.

I don’t remember what it was like to be filled with shameful secrets most of the time now. I don’t generally remember how it felt; all of the thick, slimy, suffocating feelings that went with being a person I could not like or respect. But when I do remember now, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my freedom from self hatred.

I may still be angry. And I may still be frustrated. And I am still very much afraid. But having those feelings project out, at an unfair and cruel world, is so much easier than having them project inward, at me and my own integrity.


Because sometimes life sucks and people are a**holes

I am a very ritualistic person. I always have been. I like structure. Rituals and structure have always made me feel safe. But since I got my eating under control, one of the things I had to learn was to create rituals and structures that allow me to feel safe when my rituals and structures get interrupted. Because life will be life. And sh*t will inevitably hit the fan. Maybe not today. But some day. And life will keep moving forward. And it will take me with it.

When life used to move forward, it took me kicking and screaming. I insisted that it drag me. There was a kind of heroic martyrdom to it in my twisted eating disorder brain. I was going to be unhappy on principle! It was how I showed that I was principled. That I was dedicated. It really did occur to me as noble to be so stubborn. It never registered for me that I was dedicated to my own unhappiness. And to making other people unhappy by my drama and complaining.

And I took everything personally. I took the weather personally. I felt like anything that didn’t go the way I intended, or really even just the way I wanted, was a slight from whatever poor schmuck happened to be involved. And if nobody was involved, it was a slight from God. I was incredibly self-centered, in case you hadn’t gathered that by now.

So now I have a very important ritual that I do every morning. I call it my morning meditation. And sometimes I do actually meditate. But the point of this ritual is very specific. It’s a time when I be still and remember that life is going exactly the way it is supposed to. That there is only one way for life to go, and that is the way that it is going. If there were any other way for it to go, it would be going that way instead. (I know. For someone who doesn’t spend much time actually meditating, it’s a very Zen philosophy.) There are a few different ways that I do this. But I do it every morning. Because it helps to keep me from martyrdom, panic, resentment. You know, all the things that make me want to eat a chocolate cake.

Sometimes I make a promise to God that whatever happens that day, I will honor it as His will. I don’t promise to like it. I just promise to honor it. To accept that it is what it is. And that if it’s yucky, or upsetting, or painful, to not take it personally. That life is not always easy. That it’s like that for everybody.

And that includes everything. Train delays, people being rude, losing things, spilling coffee on myself, making mistakes. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes people are a**holes. Sometimes I’m one of them.

The making mistakes/being an a**hole thing is the hardest for me to deal with. Since I have gotten control of my eating, I find it relatively easy to be philosophical when I have done my best to plan and prepare, to do good work and be a good person, and things just don’t work out anyway. But it’s not so easy for me to be calm about things going wrong when I have fallen short on my end. My first reaction is still to look for someone else to blame, or to torture and shame myself. But when I agree to honor whatever happens as God’s will, my only option is to accept it, fix it as best I can, and move on. To let it be and let it go. I am not always good at this. But by making this promise to God in the morning, I give up the right to get all dramatic about it. I’m not saying I never do. But I give up the right. I agree that there is no justification for resentment, martyrdom, or self-pity.

Sometimes I say the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.  There are a few versions of it. But this is the one I say:

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace – that where there is hatred, I may bring love – that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness – that where there is discord, I may bring harmony – that where there is error, I may bring truth – that where there is doubt, I may bring faith – that where there is despair, I may bring hope – that where there are shadows, I may bring light – that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted – to understand, than to be understood – to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.

The reason I like it is that it reminds me that if I want peace (and I do want peace), I have to bring the peace. That it’s my responsibility to bring the good stuff. Not to sit around and judge everybody else for not doing it. Not to try to micro-manage the world and point out how everybody else is doing it wrong. It is not “Lord, make everybody else peaceful so I don’t have to deal with their bullsh*t today.” It’s “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. That where there is hatred I may bring love.” Again, I don’t always succeed at this. But when this is how I start my morning, I have a better chance of bringing something worthwhile into the world.

And sometimes I just be quiet and trust that God is taking care of me. And remember that God has always taken very good care of me when I have let Him. When I have stopped fighting, resisting, being angry. I remember that when I don’t insist on being dragged, kicking and screaming, there’s no dragging, kicking, or screaming. That there’s peace. And that I lead a pretty sweet life.

My morning meditation doesn’t take a lot of time. Between 5 and 15 minutes. Nothing really in terms of my time. But it makes a huge difference in my life. It helps me manage my feelings instead of eating them. Or drinking them. Or smoking them. And in case you are wondering, I have not had a cigarette since my birthday on the 6th. So hooray for morning meditation for that too!
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